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UK to Taliban: Talks to resolve conflict

UK to Taliban: Talks to resolve conflict

Mar 29, 2012 - 20:00

KABULinfo-icon (PANinfo-icon): A senior British official warned on Thursday that Afghanistaninfo-icon could face problems after the 2014 withdrawal of foreign soldiers from the war-hit country.

However, they would try to convince the Talibaninfo-icon to come to the negotiating table instead of further perpetuating the decade-long war, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt told a news conference in Kabul.

Also in charge of the UK military mission in Afghanistan, he listed administrative corruption and lack of respect for the constitution, as well as womeninfo-icon’s rights, as some of the post-withdrawal challenges for the country.

The British government would stay committed to assisting Afghanistan even after the pullout of foreigners in 2014, said Blurt, who believed the country’s natural resources might not be used for people’s prosperity.

It was for the Afghans to deal with the challenges with cooperation from the international fraternity, he remarked, urging the Karzai administration to affirm its pledge to combat corruption at the Tokyo Conference, slated for July.

Unsure that graft would be eradicates from Afghan government institutions in the near future, the visiting dignitary hoped the authorities would soon realise the importance of eliminating the scourge.

"Greater efforts are needed to fight corruption, because it also helps in combating violence,” said the secretary, who underlined the imperative of a political solution to the conflict.

“We are doing our bit to persuade Taliban that fighting is no answer to the problem. Coming to the negotiating table is the solution,” he remarked, calling the peace process a complex effort.

He went on to reiterate the UK’s support for “an Afghan-led reconciliation campaign." He wanted the Karzai government to involve the Taliban in the peace drive.

On March 15, the insurgent movement announced suspending talks with the US until the Americans come up with a clear stance on key issues, including the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.

In early January, the Taliban said they had agreed to open a political bureau in Doha for possible peace parleys with Washington -- a move supported by Kabul and the US governments.

Later on, the group acknowledged contact with the Americans on the exchange of prisoners and diplomatic recognition of their Qatar office.

The Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA), the second largest militant outfit, said on Tuesday it was suspending talks with the Afghan government and the US because they lacked a practical policy.

Led by former prime minister and jihadi commander Gulbadin Hekmatyar, the HIA confirmed it had been in contact with some US and European officials on peace parleys.

In response to a query about insurgent hideouts in the region, Burt said the global fraternity was trying to convince neighbouring countries that their security was linked to peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan and international backers often blame Pakistaninfo-icon for following a two-face policy on the war against terrorism and supporting the Taliban and Al Qaeda. However, Islamabad rejects the allegation as groundless.

“We had raised our voice against the issue of graft in Kabul Bank that worried the international community and the British government," he said.

Kabul Bank, the country's largest private lender, faced a grave financial crisis due to giving out bad loans and other anomalies in 2010. Later, the Ministry of Finance accepted some shares of the bank, currently operating under the name of New Kabul Bank.

Also on Thursday, UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the British army would help create a military academy in Afghanistan to train its security personnel. Up to 200 British troops would mentor future Afghan officers, he indicated.

During a visit to southern Helmand province, where most of the British soldiers are stationed, he said most of UK forces would be pulled out of Afghanistan in 2014, when its combat role will come to an end.

The agreement on setting up the military academy was a guarantee of Britain's long-term commitment to Afghanistan, the secretary remarked. "The future for this country is an effective transition to Afghan national security forces."

At a meeting with Helmand Governor Mohammad Gulab Mangal, he said: “The UK will continue assisting Afghan security forces after 2014 and we promise the people of Afghanistan our long-term help."

Of the more than 9,500 British soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, about 400 have lost their lives in the decade-long conflict.



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